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Underwater soldier-Santa surprises family at MOA

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It wasn't just any old Scuba Claus at the Mall of America Sea Life Aquarium Sunday afternoon. It was First Lt. Nick Aldrich, home from Afghanistan to surprise his four children.

DVIDS, a military news website, reports the kids, ages 7 months to 8, thought they were going to see Scuba Santa at the mall.

Aldrich came to the mall directly from the airport. Sea Life staff helped him into a wetsuit and Santa costume. He lowered himself into the tank to swim with the fishes and sharks. When the children were underneath watching, Aldrich held up a sign that said, “Hello from Scuba Claus,” on one side. On the other side it said, “And a special hello to Britta, Teagan, Jace, Solveij and Esmae! Hi! It’s Dad! I’m Home!”

Eight-year-old Teagan read the sign out loud, then told her siblings what was going on. The children met their dad on top of the tank for a big, wet hug. Aldrich got to hold the baby for the first time.

“It’s huge,” said Aldrich. “The entire time we’ve been gone, it’s all you think about. To be able to come back before Christmas to see my kids and my wife, it’s amazing.”

According to KSTP, Aldrich is with the 850th Horizontal Engineer Company of the Minnesota National Guard, also known as "The Renegades." They cleared mine fields, improved drainage, took down bases and built guard towers. Most of the soldiers are from the Cambridge area.

“They’re going to remember this their whole life,” said Aldrich. “They’ve also dedicated a lot of this year to service as well. I’ve been over there with the Army, but they’ve been here waiting for me and wanting me to be home."

“It was so special and such a blessing to be able to do this,” said Britta Aldrich. “It’s exciting enough to have him come home after being gone so long, but then to be able to do it in such a fun way was great. It’s everything that you would wish for to have your husband come home for Christmas.”

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